What is the purpose of a conference? Disseminating information is the obvious answer, but there are better ways these days to announce new results. No, the major reason for conferences is to bring a large segment of our community together in one place. Keeping that in mind,
- Meet People: Don't just hang out with students from your own department. Talk to other students, they will be your future colleagues. Don't be intimidated by senior people whose names you have seen on famous papers. Deep down they are just like you.
- Don't go to too many talks: You will burn out and not remember much of anything. And too much time in talks detracts from the main purpose of the conference. Pick and choose your talks based on your research interests, the abstracts in the proceedings and those given by someone with a reputation for giving good talks.
- Go to the business meeting: It will give you a flavor of the inner workings of the theory community. With luck there will be a lively discussion of some arcane issue. And don't forget the free beer.